ST. GEORGE – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints redoubled its opposition to the medical cannabis ballot initiative Friday with the release of a legal analysis that “raises grave concerns” about the consequences the initiative may have if passed by voters in November.
“The proposed Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative is a matter of great controversy in this state,” the LDS church said in a statement. “The negative effects and consequences of marijuana use on individuals, families, and society at large are well-known. There are also those who claim that it has medicinal benefits for those in some circumstances.”
The LDS church hired the Kirton McConkie law firm to conduct an analysis of the medical cannabis ballot initiative. The analysis produced a seven-page document listing over 30 points outlining what the ballot initiative may allow if passed.
“We wanted to know what the initiative would actually do, if adopted,” the church stated. “That memorandum raises grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted. We invite all to read the attached memorandum and to make their own judgment.”
The Kirton McConkie memorandum, as well as the ballot initiative, are available for download in the Resources section at the end of this article.
The LDS church made its opposition to the ballot initiative known in April when it publicly supported the Utah Medical Association’s statement against the initiative.
Gov. Gary Herbert has said he will “actively oppose” the medical cannabis initiative, as he believes it to be “significantly flawed” and will open up the way for recreational marijuana use in Utah.
“It lacks important safeguards regarding its production and utilization and would potentially open the door to recreational use,” the governor said, adding he believes the ballot initiative, no matter how well-intended, will do more harm than good.
The Utah Patients Coalition, the group behind the ballot initiative, issued a response to the LDS church’s statement Friday:
“We anticipate a healthy debate in the public square about the merits of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act leading up to November’s vote. We respect the opinions of those who disagree and look forward to rebutting their fear-based arguments in the months ahead.
“In the mean time, we agree with Governor Herbert that this is an important debate to be had, and echo Lieutenant Governor Cox’s caution not to sign any signature removal forms from people knocking on doors.
“Current law has ‘serious adverse consequences’ for thousands of sick patients who are either illegally using cannabis to improve their health, or those who want to but suffer to obey the law. Our tightly controlled proposal – one of the most conservative in the country – preserves the doctor-patient relationship and ensures that those who need this God-given plant for medicinal purposes can use it without fear of criminal punishment.”
The Utah Patients Coalition is also filing notice that it intends to sue opponents of the initiative who are asking people to remove their signatures in a last-minute push to keep the issue off the ballot.
The Patients Coalition said Friday that canvassers are misleading people into taking their names off the petition. The opposition, Drug Safe Utah, denies using any fraudulent claims to make its case.
The threat comes as the battle over the issue heats up in conservative Utah. Earlier this week, opponents filed a complaint saying a medical-marijuana advocate tried to illegally buy voters’ signature-removal forms. The Patients Coalition said he was trying to legally buy opponents’ data to undo the fraud they’d spread.
The Associated Press contributed to this story
- The Kirton McConkie legal analysis of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act
- The Initiative – Utah Medical Cannabis Act
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